A two-hour power outage at Konkola Copper Mines on Monday caused flooding at Shaft One in Chililabombwe, leaving 28 miners trapped underground before power was restored.
But Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) Provisional Liquidator Milingo Lungu has explained that immediately after the incident happened, emergency protocol procedures were effected, adding that no fatalities or damage to property was recorded.
“The incident happened at 15:25 hours. At Shaft One, some men had just reported for the afternoon shift and they were in the cage going down. So, when the power cut hit the unit, these men, 28 of them, were trapped for about two hours underground. And you know, it’s very dark and the air circulation in there becomes restricted. So, there was panic and anxiety both underground and on the surface. But we thank God that they were all rescued without injury. The miners were only rescued by the mine safety team after power was restored. That was after 17 hours,” said a KCM source, who sought anonymity.
“The power outage caused some flooding underground. As we speak, they are still pumping out the water. They’ve put what is known as water-tight doors so that they can secure lives and some other property. This was caused by a fault at one of the substations that feeds the pump chamber underground. What happened is that when it went down, the pumps went off, the high lift pumps, and as a result, they couldn’t pump water so it caused a certain level of flooding. The water levels have started reducing, but one of the workshops underground is still flooded. It can be recovered, but it is flooded right now.”
The source revealed that the outage affected 18 pumps, but the damage could not be assessed.
“The incident affected about 18 pumps out of the 42. The mine doesn’t usually use all the pumps at once, but these 18, which were affected have been restored and they have started working again. In terms of damage, we cannot tell for certain at this stage until all the water is drained away,” the source explained.
“Then last week, there was another incident. There was a mud rush, or a mud slide if you like, at Konkola Mine again. Water came in at the production end. They had built and were ready to start blasting, then they noticed water started coming out on the walls. Then, more water started coming out, by around 21:00 hours, there was a lot of water, mud, and rocks that came out underground, affecting operations. Again, luckily there were no injuries and no equipment was damaged.”
But when contacted about the Monday incident, Lungu said the flooding was restricted.
“There was an outage at around that time, which led to emergency protocols kicking in. The water tight doors were deployed and the flooding was restricted. The water has been pumped out and there were no fatalities or damage to property,” said Milingo.
Konkola Copper Mines corporate affairs manager Eugene Chungu, who also confirmed the incident, said he would update the public on the status soon.
“Yes, this happened last evening. There was no injury or damage to property. I will follow up and update on the status,” said Chungu.
Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) corporate communications manager Chama Nsabika explained that the fault that caused the power outage was localized at KCM, after a shot circuit caused a fire.
“One of Konkola Copper Mines’ feeders had a fault, which resulted in a localized fire to one of the transformers. The fire was successfully quenched. CEC was able to supply power to the affected mine parts using alternative supply feeder. The CEC network is configured in such a way that each customer is supplied from more than one line,”said Nsabika.